A lifelong resident of New Orleans, Florence Schornstein is deeply involved in civic life in the city—both before and especially after Hurricane Katrina. Florence was born in Touro Infirmary, where she later served as the Executive Director of their Foundation, and grew up in the Garden District, where she still lives. From 1968-1970, Florence was the President of the Council of Jewish Women. She also became involved in the Civil Rights Movement and was particularly active in helping to desegregate the public schools in New Orleans. Later, she was appointed to run the City’s Parks Department and developed the Parkway Partners Program, which is still in existence today.
Florence is grateful that the week before Hurricane Katrina hit, her entire family was in Atlanta to celebrate her granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah and were able to remain out of harms’ way. Florence’s home sustained minimal damage, but unfortunately her daughter, who lived in Lakeview, lost everything due to the flooding after the levees broke. In the aftermath, Florence has continued to work hard to help reconstruct the city. She chairs the Women’s Leadership Initiative, part of the United Way and is focused on creating and restoring child care centers throughout the city. Florence was also appointed Member of the City Sewerage and Water Board and is helping to restore access and the infrastructure of these utilities. She believes that Judaism instilled in her a sense of responsibility to be socially active and to reach out a hand to those in need.
This Oral History was conducted in New Orleans, LA, on July 31, 2006, by Rosalind Hinton for a joint project by the Jewish Women's Archive partnered with the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) to capture the voices and experiences of members of the Jewish communities of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast communities during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. For more information, see katrina.jwa.org/about#about-oral-history